The First Air Jordans The Shoes That Sparked It All

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The shoe that revolutionized the sneaker game the most was the first Air Jordan 1. The Jordan 1 High ‘Chicago’, were the first Air Jordans ever made. These shoes were very influential to basketball and pop culture, appearing on the court and in many music videos. The first Air Jordans are also responsible for the popularity of shoes, being collected and resold. The very first Jordans were sneakers many believed would never work out. Without the first Air Jordans, Nike may have never succeeded in the basketball shoe industry.

The first air jordans

Michael Jordan was one of the high prospects going into the 1984 NBA draft. Jordan stated at the beginning of his career, he would want to sign with Adidas or Converse. These were the two most popular basketball shoes at the time. He did not even consider Nike as an option because he was not a fan of their shoes.

The companies weren’t offering him deals that sparked his interest, so he flew out to Oregon. With low hopes, to the Nike headquarters to see their offer. The deal Jordan signed revolutionized sneaker culture for the rest of time when he accepted the $500,000-a-year contract with Nike. Michael Jordan was also the first basketball player to receive commissions for every sale of his shoes. 

Michael Jordan

Before The First Air Jordans

When Jordan started his first season, the first Air Jordans were not a thing yet. Jordan wore red Nike Air Ships during his games before the first Air Jordans. Additionally, the Nike Air Ships threatened NBA uniform regulations. The rules stated all shoes worn in-game had to be 51% white or black, but Nike and Jordan rebelled against the rule. 

They persistently breached the rules with his red shoes, resulting in fines of $5000 every game. Luckily, Nike paid the fines for Jordan’s shoes. What seemed ignorant for them to continue to lose money was a gold mine of publicity for Jordan’s shoes. The controversy around his Air Ships helped build the hype behind his first pair of shoes.

Nike Air Ship
Image via sotheby's

The Final Touches

The designer of the first Air Jordans, Peter Moore, was almost done with Jordans’ first shoe, but he felt it needed more. He wrapped up his design on a plane when he saw a young boy with a plastic captain wing badge attached to his shirt. He asked the flight attendant for a badge and started doodling on a napkin. This simple doodle led to the legendary Air Jordan wings logo. After this, the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ debuted on shelves in 1985, kick-starting the infamous sneaker line.

The first air jordan
Image via Amao Dong

Jordan's Hit the Shelves

The first Air Jordans debuted on April 1st, 1985, for $64.99. If I saw any pair of Jordan 1s for that price I would buy them immediately, let alone the original Air Jordan. Recently, a pair of game-worn Air Jordan 1s sold for over 400,000 dollars at auction, and 1985 Air Jordans easily sell in the thousands today. It’s kind of funny because Nike expected to sell around 100 thousand pairs in their first year. However, they sold around a million pairs within the first month of the Jordan 1s release. 

Remakes of the Jordan 1 High Chicago

Since their debut in 1985, the Air Jordan 1 High Chicago has consistently stood as a timeless classic. Over the years, it has undergone multiple reiterations, with notable releases in 1994, 2013, 2015, and the most recent one in 2022—the Lost and Found Jordan 1s. This latest rendition emulated the vintage feeling of old Air Jordans, accompanying old receipts, a vintage-feeling box, and meticulous details that lent an authentically aged appearance.

The First Air Jordan

The Design of the First Air Jordans

The inspiration behind the colors of the Air Jordan 1 was the Chicago Bulls color scheme, consisting of varsity red, black, and white. Jordan argued for them to be blue to match UNC, his college’s colors. Initially, he referred to them as the “devil’s color” attempting to influence a color change. However, the colors never changed for this iconic pair because they had to match the Bull’s colors. The sole featured a red rubber bottom adorned with stars around the toe. Meticulously crafted treads created the traction Jordan needed to change direction quickly. White paint adorned the midsole, while white stitching seamlessly connected it to the upper parts of the shoe. 

The iconic black swoosh going through the middle of the red and white base and the Air Jordan wings embroidered on the upper outside panel set the Air Jordan 1 far apart from any other shoe at the time. The distinguished white toe box, riddled with holes for ventilation, grew up into the nylon tongue with the red Nike air tag. Finally, Peter Moore wrapped up the shoe with black laces intertwined into the tongue and into the top of the shoe. The excellent construction of the Air Jordan 1 completely changed how sneakers are designed to this day, being a staple in streetwear.

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